Singapore Music Reviews: RRILEY, JJ Lin, LEW, Soph T., Ken Loh, Firefly Search Party, thecolorfractal, pretty havoc., Deliciious, Fahmy, the Mc, Parinzoia, LATRO, Opus Renegade, Darryl Sim, and Daren Yuen

Singapore Music Reviews: RRILEY, JJ Lin, LEW, Soph T., Ken Loh, Firefly Search Party, thecolorfractal, pretty havoc., Deliciious, Fahmy, the Mc, Parinzoia, LATRO, Opus Renegade, Darryl Sim, and Daren Yuen

Last week, we celebrated the latest songs from the canon of Made In Singapore music to reach the ether. Now, we dig deeper into our national anthems with a critical eye. Read our review of the latest songs by RRILEY, JJ Lin, LEW, Soph T., Ken Loh, Firefly Search Party, thecolorfractal, pretty havoc., Deliciious, Fahmy, the Mc, Parinzoia, LATRO, Opus Renegade, Darryl Sim, and Daren Yuen

RRILEY – ‘mmm bye’

RRILEY is saying, “thank you, next” on her latest single.

The follow-up to ‘Burn’, the debut herald that unveiled her in her solo guise presents The Sam Willows chanteuse as walking away from the seething fires of past relationships like Bruce Willis triumphantly exiting a building he’s just caused an explosion in.

Elegant dance-pop sonics are undercut by an almighty measure of sass – the “mmm bye” refrain resounds like a war cry. Every time RRILEY coos it, she brings down the hammer of finality. The fact that it’s camouflaged as radio-ready, club floor-fare testifies to its versatility. It pops just as much as it stings. 

LEW – ‘Serendipity feat. Julia Gartha’

The most poignant and powerful thing about LEW is that his expressive range corresponds directly to his expressive range. His voice, from which emanates that deific blend of ethereality and warmth, seems precision-engineered to tell his story – always in high-impact ways. This new song is another testimony of that.

With Julia Gartha lending an assist with her honey-sweet voice, the effect of hearing LEW’s angle-light vocals against a lush swell of strings and keys, is sublime. In a social post, LEW said that, “‘Serendipity’ is about finding happiness in the unplanned accidents that occur in our lives”. The care and craft that this song is born from most certainly honour the hallowed significance of their origin. 

JJ Lin – ‘对的时间点 / The Right Time’

JJ Lin’s newest offering is a moving track about love and its everlasting qualities. Heavily inspired by Jewel Changi Airport’s HSBC Rain Vortex, the song sees JJ comparing love and life to the majestic spiralling fountain. Just as how a vortex spins so quickly that it pulls anything and everything to its centre, love has a way of figuring itself out no matter the circumstance. If life were a vortex, then love is its centre where everything comes together at the right time.

This Mandopop ballad is built upon the tranquil sounds of the guitar, piano, and violin. Soft background percussions and JJ’s gentle and soothing vocals tie everything together, forming a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Not only does the track make for a pleasant sonic experience, it also paints a picturesque picture of JJ’s love for Singapore – a land where many of his precious memories are made. 

Soph T. – ‘上锁 / Locked Away’

“天真如我 / 心本該上鎖 / 鑰匙丟進大海中” (Translation: Naive was I / Should have locked up my heart / And thrown the keys into the sea)

In Soph T.’s debut Mandarin single, the Singaporean singer-songwriter puts the pain of heartbreak into a devastatingly beautiful pop rock number. She explores the dull yet critical shot to one’s heart when a blossoming love starts to wither – and there’s nothing one can do about it.

The track sees Soph T. attempting to comfort herself, to stop being upset over the lost that’s been lost. But alas, the pain sinks in and the coda is her resigning to the pain and realising that there might not be an end to the sorrow after all. She regrets not protecting her heart in the first place, and now she’s stuck in a situation as poignant as this. 

Deliciious – ‘Late Night Thoughts’

A cry for help can work like a self-exorcism – repeat it long enough like Deliciious does here and you’ll see sublimation in effect: over a gorgeous guitar-sample-led beat, he unspools a heartbreaking lament. It’s devastating – but in the mantra-like repetition, there’s beauty and grace. “All the late night thoughts got me feel so sad / Got me feel so scared / Got me feeling such a mess” – over and over again. The sound blossoms outward like a flower, one growing against the current of pain and adversity. One hopes, that, in the end, this pain will leave and the meaning of this song will take on the resonance of transcendence. 

LATRO – ‘Honey Bag’

‘Honey Bag’ is an ode to all the things that overlap in Venn diagram fashion with “100 racks” in the rap world. The Honey Bag is an aspirational motherlode, an anchoring metaphor that underlies the self-actualisation that happens when you finally have the means to get what you want.

In that spirit, LATRO, a thoroughly new-school rapper, has released a new transmission chronicling getting “money on the side”, over a woozy, nocturnal beat, that displays his hook-writing ability and the elasticity of his flow. This song – especially its flute accents – comes from the lineage of ‘Mask Off’, apparently subdued rap songs that work just as well in the club as when you’re playing them to yourself as you become the person you want to be. 

Opus Renegade – ‘Reminisce’

“Radiate like you supposed to” – wise, necessary words from a rapper who sounds like he will not waste them.

The old heads will like this because of its fidelity to boom bap, rap’s most sacred parchment. The new-school kids will like this because its lyrical gravity paints a compelling picture of the fractured times we live in and posits that it’s not foolish to hope for things to change. Yes, ‘Reminisce’ is a rare one – a rap song for everyone.

Opus is a beyond-convincing storyteller. His bars are dense and his imagery penetrating. He sounds like he’s chipping away at his thoughts until he arrives at a hard-earned epiphany and when it comes – “F**k the numbers / Just bring the thunder”– it’s to the listener’s utmost pleasure. 

thecolorfractal – ‘waiting room’

thecolorfractal, also known as Weiwen Seah, made his return to music under his fresh new moniker earlier this year. Over the months, he has released two incredible singles, ‘twenty three’ and ‘don’t lose the plot’. Now, he has returned with a full new EP, stuffed to the brim with delightful songs. However, the track that best sums up the record is undoubtedly ‘waiting room’. Backed by full instrumentation, the track is a powerful release, while still being easy on the ears. A thick bassline and solid percussions drive the main melody of the track, as guitar chords and notes slowly creep into the fold. When everything comes together, you’re left with an enveloping, and intricate sound that won’t soon be forgotten. Like his past releases, thecolorfractal’s lyrics and vocal delivery prove to be as flawless as ever. A strong track from start to finish, ‘waiting room’ is quality music from one of Singapore’s brightest prospects. 

pretty havoc. – ‘goddess’

If you’re not familiar with pretty havoc., here’s where you should start paying attention. The duo describes itself as an ego band playing r&b, but on ‘goddess’, it goes full pop-punk, and it’s amazing. The track is one that can seamlessly sit among the late 2000s hits from Boys Like Girls and 3OH!3. If you’ve ever resonated with that soundscape, get ready to be transported to the good old days. Buckle up, you’re in for a treat. From the opening seconds, the track’s vocals and instrumentation notify listeners that they’re in for something special. When the chorus kicks in, and the song gets into full swing, it’s unrivalled. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best releases of the year.

Firefly Search Party – ‘Run’

Firefly Search Party’s latest single, ‘Run’, is an interesting one. It combines elements of smooth jazz, classic rock, folk and doo-wop music. Upon the first listen, it’s a little odd, especially its spoken word segments, but if you stick with it, it gets better with every listen, everything clicks together. Firefly Search Party takes the road less traveled, and while it’s a big gamble, it pays off. It’s refreshing to listen to something like this, especially with it’s incredible execution. The clean guitar solos, it’s backing trumpets, shakers, and baseline all converge to create a sound so full, there’s nothing more listeners could want. 

Parinzoia – ‘Tristan’

Parinzoia may not be a familiar name to some, but she should be. In any case, let ‘Tristan’ be introduced to your mix, and let it captivate you. Parinzoia melds together the worlds of ambience and indie music, and greatly, at that. On ‘Tristan’, the singer-songwriter experiments with simple backing instrumentation, letting her vocals do all the heavy lifting. The end result is a smooth, and soothing listen. It carries listeners away, with its dream-like soundscape. With a performance as strong as this, Parinzoia’s next release can’t come any sooner. 

Ken Loh – ‘What Can I Do’

Ken Loh makes his return to music with his first release of the year, ‘What Can I Do’. Having taken time between the release of his latest single, and 2018’s EP, it’s evident that the up-and-coming singer-songwriter has grown as an artist. On his latest song, he experiments with a brighter, lighter sound, adding in colourful instrumentation and melody. It’s a big risk to take – changing your sound, but if done right, it pays off. Thankfully, this seems to be the case for Ken, as his new sound, while more vibrant, hones in on his newfound maturity. 

Fahmy, the MC – ‘SLOW DOWN ft. IN THE NOW, Akmal Hussein’

“If I could talk to you / No, I should ignore you / No phone calls / No night texts / If I’m yours, you’d write back”

What happens when a once-loving relationship breaks down and things just aren’t right anymore? Many would move on after getting over their exes, but what if you find yourself trapped in the limbo that is still having feelings for the other party when they’ve already found someone new?

Fahmy, the MC, IN THE NOW and Akmal Hissein’s latest track explores the dilemma experienced by such individuals: Having to hold oneself back from getting in touch with the person they are longing for, but they shouldn’t because that person has long moved on. It’s a painful situation experienced by many, but that does not make the pain subside any further. Listening to this heart-rending track, one can only wish those in such circumstances good luck as they embark on their long journey out of limbo. 

Darryl Sim – ‘In My Head’

What strikes listeners when they press play on Darryl Sim’s new track are the soaring piano chords that permeates the entire song. But soon enough, you’ll realise that the independent bedroom artist is able to weave what is a classic sound with modern pop and trap elements as exhibited by the beats of the song and a few additional effects. They come together to create something that is not only pleasing to the ear, but also an atmospheric experience that is best suited for a long drive into the night.

The subject matter of the song suits the melancholic feel of the instrumentals perfectly. Lyrics such as “But if I try to hold on / I’m moving too slow / But if I try to move on / it’ll be too fast to hold you close” tell the story of someone who’s trapped in their own mind and unable to fully open up their hearts to love. Not only does ‘In My Head’ sound good, it also delivers an honest tale deep from Darryl’s guts. 

Daren Yuen – ‘firefighting ft. Zeeky Beats’

‘firefighting’ is Daren Yuen’s last single for the year before he embarks on an intensive project that is going to be his forthcoming EP – and he bids listeners a temporary goodbye with a track that is as enchanting as is it is melancholic. The chimes and keys present in the instrumentals create a sound that is relaxing and uplifting, but the lyric present a story that is a little bit different.

Daren’s airy vocals deliver a narrative of him fighting the fire and pain that is about to consume him. Lyrics such as “Slow dancing on my feet as the tears roll down my cheek” and “Time is passing by and I’m learning to be fine” are Daren’s attempts at explaining his thoughts and inner feelings of sadness and sorrow. That stands in stark contrast to the almost-happy sounding melodies of the instrumentals, which highlights Daren’s skill at drawing the audience’s attention to the things he wishes to express.